Let 'er Rip! Nestle Changes Product Packaging: Why It Matters If you love chocolate and ice cream as much as I do (and I doubt that's possible), you'll be delighted to learn that Nestle has made it a priority to help us get into its packages of culinary sin faster and easier than ever before. Yes, there's an obesity problem in America, but it isn't caused by easy-open packages; it's caused by easy-open mouths, so if you're the anti-snacking type, grab a carrot or grape, but stick with me to see why all this matters. Our eating and drinking habits have changed in many ways over the years, but perhaps most significantly in the way we want food packaged. Research shows that consumers love individual size servings of our favorite snack foods and are willing to pay a premium for them. Yet, we complain a lot about how hard they can be to get into. The complaints aren't just from couch potatoes who want to be able to hang onto the remote while opening something with one hand, either. Often, it's children and baby boomers who struggle most with stubborn packages that can survive being rapidly shipped around the world only to be slowed between the hand and the mouth because they out-engineered the typical consumer's dexterity. Wisely, Nestle decided to invest a significant amount of money -- about 10 percent of its revenue -- to ensure its products met the needs of snackers. Essentially, they're demonstrating the D in SPUD - Dynamic - in the best possible way. They're watching how their products are consumed, paying close attention to buyers' complaints, and taking action as quickly as possible. That's what it takes to remain relevant. In fact, the company even requires its packaging experts and suppliers to annually submit plans for ways to improve packaging. Let's face it: there are a lot of companies vying for our snack money. It's easier than ever for us to move on to something new for a reason as simple as "I don't like the way the lid comes off." The secret to Nestle's ability to give consumers what they want is that the company doesn't just rely on its internal brainpower and instincts. For instance, to find out how consumers of its PowerGel actually use the product, they sent researchers to stand on the sidelines of a marathon and observe the way runners opened the package. They saw a majority rip open the package using their teeth and try (often unsuccessfully) to squeeze out the entire contents without breaking stride. They discovered that the long neck on the package actually slowed the gel, making it difficult to ooze out quickly, therefore requiring multiple squeezes. So, they went back to the drawing board, threw away their assumptions about the advantages of a long, narrow package, and came up with a triangular-shaped top that will control the flow while still fitting comfortably in the runner's mouth. It will hit shelves within the next few months. Nestle offers a great role model for the rest of us. All products are packaged, whether they're a snack, an off-the-shelf piece of technology, or even a service. What are you doing to ensure your packaging remains relevant? Great content, whether in the form of chocolate bites or gigabytes, isn't enough any more in our "on the go" society where faster and easier is almost always perceived as better. Make sure you aren't losing customers or potential customers because of something that can be changed, sometimes easily. This applies to everything from a written proposal (is it easy to read, understand, act on?) to the way your product is delivered. (By the way, if you want to see how masterfully delivery can be handled, check out RedEnvelope.com.) And if you do happen to produce a product in chocolate and want to know if the packaging needs improvement, please send it to me. I'll get right back to you!
Are you relevant? Here's how to know: if you're absolutely certain what you offer really matters and you've won the mindshare and heartshare of your clients and potential clients, you "get" the SPUD Factor. SPUD stands for Strategic, Proactive, Universal, and Dynamic. If you aren't sure how relevant you are, or you fear becoming a SPUD Dud, this blog's for you. Find out what it takes to remain relevant in the face of change. Learn from good - and bad - examples how relevancy drives longevity.